(Updated from 3:25 p.m. EST) Today's would-be Wall Street comeback was a nail-biter; the finish was as tense as last night's Grammy Awards. The Nasdaq Composite Index did managed to bounce off of a 28-month low, but it closed at its lowest level since Jan. 4, 1999, down 24 to 2245. It flipped from green to red rather wildly in late-afternoon trading as market forces collided.

The

Dow Jones Industrial Average, which was also volatile in the afternoon, managed to just barely squeak by with a positive close, ending up 0.23 --essentially unchanged -- to 10,527.

Bears gnashed their claws into the hardened flesh of the bulls, who've had enough of slumping stock prices and misery. The fight was a heated one, with the Comp and Dow forced to rally back time and time again during a wild seesaw session.

None of the economic signs are pointing in the same direction. Weak fourth-quarter earnings and 2001 forecasts show a slowing economy. A

Higher-than-expected

Producer Price Index and

Consumer Price Index point to an

inflation risk. And today's release of lower-than-expected

initial jobless claims

for the week ended Feb. 17 suggests a stronger economy.

Against this backdrop of great uncertainty,

Brocade

(BRCD)

and

EMC

(EMC)

added to the pain already inflicted upon the data-storage industry. Brocade said it expected

modest sales growth for its second quarter, while

beating estimates for the first. Meanwhile, EMC, the No. 1 data-storage firm, said that 2001's growth would come in lower-than-expectations.

Brocade fell 6.3%, while EMC dropped 6.1 %, as panicky traders dumped technology in the early morning.

The news hurts, especially since last week, when

Emulex

(EMLX)

warned of a softening third-quarter because of order delays. In addition to Brocade and EMC, the news has killed such data storage-related companies as

McData

(MCDT)

and

Veritas

(VRTS) - Get Report

. McData was off 11.4% and Veritas dropped 12.7%.

Cisco

(CSCO) - Get Report

and

Sun Microsystems

(SUNW) - Get Report

came back after hitting 52-week lows in the last two sessions. Sun has a post-close conference call today after the bell and was falling earlier on concerns that it would be trimming back earnings estimates. At one point, Sun was as low as $19.19. Not any more. Sun rallied 4.2%, while Cisco jumped 5%.

So, sure, some of the bigger names were bouncing back -- but overall, technology was a horrible place to be. The number of losers on the Nasdaq Stock Market more than doubled the number of winners as investors dumped shares into the open market, opting for anything else. Dot-coms and biotechs were hurt the most. The

TheStreet.com Internet Sector Index

fell 3.2% and the

Nasdaq Biotechnology Index

fell 2.8%.

Over on the Dow,

Coca-Cola

(KO) - Get Report

was the biggest loser, coughing up 3.5% after it announced yesterday that it would be pairing its juice line with

Procter & Gamble's

(PG) - Get Report

snack line, forming an entirely new company. Investors and analysts alike pooh-poohed the idea, thinking it better that Coke's Minute Maid juices just stay the heck away from P&G's Pringles.

TheStreet Recommends

P&G wasn't doing much better, falling 0.9%.

3M

(MMM) - Get Report

was another stinker, dropping 0.9%.

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Sector Watch

After rallying earlier in the week, thanks to a pair of earnings releases from heavyweights Wal-Mart and Home Depot, the retailers have come down a bit. Profit-taking was the major reason, really. Many of the sector's names have reached 52-week highs in 2001, and with the lackluster holiday season in the rearview, many have a soft spot for the retailers -- especially with everything else performing so shabbily.

The

S&P Retail Index

dropped 0.7%. Wal-Mart eased 1%, while Home Depot slid 2.3%.

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Bonds/Economy

Treasury prices were moving up as a result of steady economic data and continued weakness in stocks. The money market had been weaker at the opening bell as traders continued to worry about the potentially inflationary implications of higher-than-expected producer and consumer prices in January.

Higher inflation reduces the chances of a near-term interest rate cut, which the bond market doesn't like. But with equities getting battered yet again today, investors are looking to government securities as the safest place for their money -- for now.

The benchmark 10-year

Treasury notelately was down 4/32 to 98 22/32, lowering its yield to 5.170%.

In economic news,

initial jobless claims

(

definition |

chart |

source

), which track the number of people applying for unemployment benefits for the first time, rose to 348,000 in the week ended Feb.17. Although this is 4,000 more than the prior week's revised number, the figure is substantially lower than the 355,000 that economists had predicted in a

Reuters

poll. The four-week moving average, however, climbed for the third consecutive week, to 350,750. Still, recent figures suggest that the string of layoffs may be drawing to a close.

The index of

leading economic indicators

(

definition |

chart |

source

), which forecasts economic activity more than half a year in advance, rose by 0.8% in January after having fallen for two consecutive months. The anticipated rise had been for 0.3%.

The

Help-Wanted Index

(

definition |

chart |

source

) fell by 3 points, to 76, last month. The gauge, which had a base value of 100 in 1987, tracks jobs openings in newspapers nationwide.

The

Consumer Comfort Index

(

definition |

chart), which measures how consumers view the economy's direction and their participation in it, fell by a point, to 19, for the week ended Feb. 18.

Finally, the surplus in the

federal budget

(

definition |

chart |

source

) rose to $76.38 billion in January from $32.67 billion in December. It is also $14.2 billion higher than the number from a year ago.

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